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By Jackey Locke

Paradigm Hyperloop, a team that designed a high-speed, air-levitating ground transport vehicle, took second place for speed at the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition in California this past weekend.

The team’s pod reached a top speed of 101 kilometres per hour.

Only North American finalist

Paradigm Hyperloop, which is comprised of 40 highly innovative post-secondary students from Memorial University, Northeastern University and the College of the North Atlantic, was one of 24 finalists to compete in Competition Weekend II, which was the second SpaceX Hyperloop Competition, held at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

On Saturday, Paradigm Hyperloop made it into the final three and became the only North American finalist to test their pod on Sunday in the SpaceX Hyperloop Tube.

The team made history when it became the first team ever to use an air-bearing system.

Paradigm Team
The Paradigm Hyperloop team with their pod.
Photo: Submitted

“As the sun sets, we take home the second place prize for speed, however, history has been made this day by proving the air bearing concept,” the team tweeted.

Top 10

To earn their spot in the competition, the team, formerly known as OpenLoop, was one of 30 teams selected from 1,200 teams to showcase and test its pod this past January.

The team placed in the top 10 in final testing. This past March, the team competed in the second design competition and the judges were so impressed by their design, the team was directly put through to the final stage of the second competition.

“It’s an incredible feeling and satisfying after two years of working on this.” — Adam Keating

Since March, the team worked hard to prepare for the competition. While they kept the frame, shell and the core of the compressed-air system, they optimized their novel air-bearing system, added new wheels to increase speed capability and completely redesigned the braking, stability, electrical and power systems.

The biggest upgrade to the pod was the introduction of an integrated high-speed wheel system with each of the four air bearings.

The pod wheel system.
The pod wheel system.
Photo: Submitted

“We incorporated wheels into the air-bearing system, which is what the pod nominally levitates on,” said Mr. Keating, a recent graduate of Memorial’s mechanical engineering program and team lead. “If the air system stopped working during flight, the pod could safely continue to run on wheels at full-speed.”

According to Mr. Keating, most teams use wheels on their pods but what makes Paradigm’s unique is that if the air system failed, the wheels would automatically engage to allow the pod to continue and at a high speed.

“For most of the other pods, engaging the wheels in an emergency requires a series of built-in steps; it’s not automatic nor intended for high speed,” explained Mr. Keating. “In our case, if we lost both power and air, we automatically land on the wheels.”

Building on success

With Paradigm’s second place finish, the team is feeling blessed and happy that it’s over.

“It’s an incredible feeling and satisfying after two years of working on this,” Mr. Keating said. “I’m one of two founding team members still involved and I just really wanted to see everything we’ve done over the past two years succeed. Going forward I hope to to stay involved as an advisor so that we can keep building this here.”

The Paradigm pod.
The Paradigm pod.
Photo: Submitted

The team that won last year commercialized and started their own company. Paradigm team members haven’t decided what they’ll do next, but they’re excited about the possibilities and grateful for all the support they’ve received.

“We’ve received tremendous support,” said Mr. Keating. “From Canadian and U.S. companies, the provincial and federal governments and Memorial University. It’s an incredible feeling to be recognized and supported on a world stage for the innovative work executed by this team, the world’s future brightest engineers.”

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